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The best way to resolve a dispute between sponsor and worker
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 03 - 04 - 2017

Recently, a friend of mine forwarded me a disturbing video clip of a dispute between an expat worker and his sponsor. For the record, I would like to state that I cannot verify where or when this altercation took place and how old the clip is. I was only told it was taken in Madinah.
In the clip, the sponsor is seen going to the driver's room and calling him out and after a calm conversation for 10 seconds, he suddenly asks the driver why he threw his wife's laptop down and broke it, and in the same breath, the sponsor punches the driver.
What I understand from the clip is that the sponsor's wife had a disagreement with the driver and as a result the latter threw the laptop down and broke it. Now, following the wife's complaint to her husband, he is meting out his own form of justice by beating his employee, while repeatedly asserting that if he has any problem to speak to him and not to his wife.
The driver, as if anticipating an incident like this, had installed what appears to be a secret camera and filmed the entire event, documenting the aggression of the sponsor. I would not be exaggerating if I said that there is a punch or a slap every 10 seconds. And in the ongoing tirade, the sponsor keeps asking the employee what is wrong with him, accusing him of damaging his car.
The funny thing in this clip — although the whole incident was not funny at all — is the sponsor's repeated insistence in asking the driver, "are you a Muslim," saying that his action of damaging the laptop was not Islamic, forgetting that the entire abuse and insult against the defenseless driver is totally not supported by Shariah and is far away from anything that is Islamic or basic human principles.
The sponsor in this clip is seen dragging the driver to where the car is parked while shouting and holding a stick, threatening to use it against the hapless employee. Not only that, but it is clear in the clip that the sponsor also makes a direct threat against the driver saying, "I swear, I will kill you."
Amid all this hullaballoo, the driver is seeing making a clear request to the sponsor saying that he does not want to work for him anymore and would he please grant him a release, but the sponsor insists that he will only consider it if he is first paid for the repair of the car that the driver had reportedly damaged. The driver continues to say that he did not do anything wrong and insists that he wants to leave work.
In the end, the sponsor tells the driver to go back to his room and that he will call the police to investigate him, an action, in my opinion, that should have been taken from the beginning in order to avoid the unnecessary beatings and insults.
I have witnessed some similar incidents and read about many others, where a sponsor has taken matters into his/her own hands before resorting to the proper channels. What I understand from this incident, and any incident similar to this, is that such a sponsor's mindset is like those of a slave-master.
He feels that it is within his rights to act as he wants since he has paid to recruit this worker, and thus owns him and has every right to treat him the way he wants, and even deprive him of his salary if he wants to. That is why I hope that the kafala (sponsorship) system is abolished once and for all because it is being grossly misused and has given our country a bad image around the world.
In companies, workers — Saudis and expatriates — are governed by contracts and company rules. Rarely have we heard of a manager resorting to physical abuse because a company worker has not completed his task. Yes, there are occasional arguments, raised and frayed tempers, but no one resorts to physical beatings because it is clearly specified in the contract that such unruly behavior will not be tolerated and will end in termination.
There are norms set and disciplinary action prescribed for every infringement, and in most cases it starts by issuing a warning or salary deduction. Why couldn't something similar be applied here where the relationship, even on a smaller or individual scale is governed by a contract that protects the rights of both sponsors and workers?
It is commendable that some countries conduct seminars for their workers to educate them about what and what not to do when they come to Saudi Arabia, while telling them to be exemplary ambassadors of their country by following the Kingdom's rules.
I think such seminars should be instituted here in Saudi Arabia to teach sponsors basic manners of human treatment and dignity so that they will be aware that the people coming to work with them are human beings with feelings and that it is only the need for a job that has brought them to our country.
Good treatment of others is a human instinct and is the core of Islam. Abdullah ibn ‘Amr said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was neither coarse nor loud. He used to say, "The best of you is the one who has the best character."
I do not know how the incident in the video clip ended, but I wish that the worker had complained to the police about the physical and verbal abuse of the sponsor. If the worker was guilty of damaging the car, then he should pay for the damage. For sure the sponsor should be taken to task and pay 20 times as much for the physical and verbal abuse.
Although the sponsor is an individual representative, and a poor example in this case, the video clip could be used to trash our collective reputation as a people. He should be made an example for those who think that abusing workers is their inherent right. And we should emphatically learn that when there is a dispute, we must be civil and solve it in the right manner through proper channels.
The writer can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng

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